Originally posted by Ken Wear May 2001Skulduggery in our schools, such as the Columbine or West Virginia shootings, result more from lack of moral commitment than availability of weapons. An unintended consequence of removing The Ten Commandments from classroom walls has been loss of a tool for moral instruction. The mere presence of the document has an influence for good. Until those who insist religious documents not be displayed come forth with an adequate substitute, I encourage a secular version be displayed; a possible rendition is presented below.
"The Ten Commandments -- Paraphrased
The first four, due to reference to the Deity, are considered by some to be religious in nature and hence ill suited to public display. The remaining six (paraphrased) are:
When I was in public schools the Bible's Ten Commandments was displayed on many classroom walls along with the Declaration of Independence and other significant documents and portraits of historical figures. As students we were aware of those documents and thus reminded to honor the principles they espoused. And many teachers took advantage of the presence of The Ten Commandments to include the topic of morals in their lectures.
Morality is religiously neutral and moral instruction of our youngsters is still needful. While many people of Christian heritage prefer the traditional presentation, this secular version is better than none and will serve in its place. True, our Supreme Court has over-reached in suggesting the First Amendment forbade localities spending their own money as they wished -- in effect offending the 86% of believers to placate the other 14%; realistically it may be many years before the illegal meddling by an activist court can be overturned; until then there is need for a document that can be used for moral instruction.
I include here five versions, two traditional renditions and two versions as suggested
above (one with the word "Secular" in the title. You may click to examine the various
versions and use your BACK button to return here. All are included as separate files so
you may copy any one or all.
1) Plain text; click here
2) Plain text with 'Secular' in the title; click here
3) Full text of Exodus 20:1-17 (King James Version); click here
4) Summary from Revised Standard Verson; click here
5) As 1) with an artistic suggestion of the wind of God as author; click here.
A print-out of any of these should be acceptable for display without revision. You should display a copy in your own home. (Printing on simulated parchment makes an attractive document that does not yellow like ordinary paper.)
I strongly agree that our public institutions should not in any sense favor one religion over another (including Atheism, which, although a negation, is itself a teaching of religion). It is difficult for me to see how the most ardent advocates or opponents of any religion taught among men can object to such a simple presentation of ethical principles, as presented in the above secular version, or the statement explaining lack of reference to Deity.
I urge you to present this document, and the moral imperative of widespread acknowledgment of its truths, to rich and poor alike in the hope of fostering a more genteel society.
To return to the Contents of Ken Wear's web site, click here.
One hurdle to acceptance of any rendition of The Ten Commandments is the attitude of people committed to separation of church and state. Dr. Paul Kurtz, Founder and Chairman of the Center For Inquiry, is one of the world's foremost spokesmen for secularism and its endorsement of separation of church and state; he has indicated his agreement with the content of this non-religious version. I know of no spokesman for atheism to query about his endorsement of this version.
(5-16-06) I printed an artistic rendition of this paraphrased version and circulated it to the principals of several hundred public schools in this area. In following up I learned that fear of lawsuit discouraged circulation to teachers and staff for display or other purpose. I sought someone with adequate resources to guarantee educators payment of their legal fees should display of this version become the subject of lawsuit; that quest was unsuccessful.
Please join me in encouraging adoption of an Amendment to our Constitution to limit Federal jurisdiction over use of locally owned public property; to view that click here. For an Amendment to clarify limitation of the present First Amendment click here.
You are welcome to copy and use the above in any manner you can devise. I offer these on 8-1/2x11 simulated parchment suitable for framing or mounting on a plaque at $1 each -- any quantity -- plus mailing tube and postage. You may be in touch via e-mail by clicking here for the e-mail form. (Simulated parchment does not yellow with age and has a permanence not offered by ordinary papers.)
July 2007: I have become disheartened, after repeated efforts to present this version to potential users, and conclude that other issues so dominate public attention that the fine line between Federal and local ownership of public property goes unnoticed. Public sentiment seems to turn more on the impotence of local leaders to overturn a constitutional wrong than on providing a tool for classroom instruction in morality. Study of statistics on visitors to this web site tells me there is a continuing interest in the topic but I have ceased to devote time and attention to adoption and use of this presentation of a crucially important component of our heritage.